The young stars of an upcoming Kids Fun and Drama (KFAD) production would like you to 'move it, move it' to see them perform this weekend.
In celebration of 30-plus years, KFAD will present "Madagascar Jr." at Beloit Head Start, 1221 Henry Ave. Shows will be held at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a final performance at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors or students.
The cast of 23 youths has been rehearsing roughly three times a week for two hours at a time in anticipation of the play, based on the 2005 film "Madagascar." Director Jestin Korleski said many of the kids involved are home-schooled, but the cast also includes some public schools students.
"They're all excited to be animals. That's like the best thing in the world," Korleski said.
Korleski said being involved in Kids Fun and Drama allows youths of various ages to learn better listening, memorization and fine motor skills while practicing choreographed dances and songs. Local kids' involvement also solidifies mutual respect, helps overcome fears and boosts their confidence.
Tatianna Crawford, 12, of Roscoe, plays lead character Marty the Zebra and is in her third season with KFAD. Crawford said she's been singing all her life, but joining KFAD helped her meet some of her best friends.
In her very first show last winter, Crawford was cast as Ebeneezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol," and she's happily surprised to be chosen for a leading role again despite being relatively new.
"They trusted me with such a big role, and they didn't even know me. And here I am, two seasons later," Crawford said.
Crawford aspires to become a Broadway performer. She said local programs like KFAD are a great way for young performers practice their craft.
"This is the start of my book," Crawford said.
Maia Jones, 13, plays Alex the Lion, making her best friends with Crawford both on and off the stage. Jones said her family is originally from upstate New York, the state where portions of the play's storyline take place.
Jones, also in her third season with KFAD, said joining the local program helped introduce her to the community.
"Moving to a new place is always hard, but here I can be as loud as I want," Jones said.
The energetic youngest members of KFAD look up to cast mates like Jones as big brother and sister type role models. Maia's 9-year-old sister, Ada, plays various roles of a lemur, a zoo guest and a steak.
Jones said routine vocal practice is necessary in order to belt out high notes and feel comfortable projecting loudly.
Natalee Lounsbury and Alan Rodriguez, both 10 years old and from Beloit, play the semi-antagonistic lemur roles of Maurice and King Julien, respectively.
One of their favorite parts of the play involves a band of lemurs singing "I like to move it" while bouncing around the stage.
Lounsbury said she likes meeting people her age, entertaining families and being in the spotlight.
Rodriguez said wearing costumes helps immerse him into the world of the show and feel in tune with the story. It helps him take the role more seriously and put on a more vibrant performance.